The Release of the Lord # 5
The Basic Reality
The evidence is overwhelming that from Pentecost onward the basis of the fullest, richest, and most effectual world-testimony of Jesus has been a 'holiness movement from heaven': that is, a heart-changing, life-revolutionizing, whole-being-captivating realization of Who Jesus is - the first as to His Sovereignty in the Throne of Deity, and the second as to His Sovereignty in the life at all points. To be 'filled with the Holy Spirit' is to be filled with holiness, love, humility, joy, and a passion for securing to the "Beloved" the fruit of His travail in every nation. No 'spiritual' movement, convention, teaching, is valid without the hall-mark of spontaneous concern for the eternal well-being of others. Far too often intensive movements result in morbid introspection. There is nothing more paralyzing than this. And the reaction from it is just as perilous. Enthusiasm, interest, high spirits, 'personality,' education, or enterprise, harnessed to a more or less dated 'decision for Christ,' are frequently the points of emphasis in this reaction.
The cost to a convert in New Testament times was too great to permit of anything that was superficial or merely a matter of romance or enthusiasm. The motive power must spring from a very real and deep knowledge of the Lord, balanced by an ardent passion for His satisfaction in the nations.
What Pentecost Was
We have failed far too terribly to realize what 'Pentecost,' and the 'baptism of the Holy Spirit,' really was. The external accompaniments and effects have obscured the deeper elements. We have interpreted it in terms of activity, signs, waves of emotion, excitability, and so forth. But our supreme need is to know the true meaning of this 'baptism.'
We therefore give the following all-inclusive definition. The baptism of the Holy Spirit means the enthronement of the Lord Jesus as absolute Sovereign, without reservation or rival, in the entire life, in all its interests and activities.
Within this compass there are one or two specific things which we may point out.
Firstly, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a baptism into the holiness of the Lord. It is a baptism with fire, which must be interpreted, primarily, not as zest, but as sanctification. Pentecost was a 'holiness movement from heaven.' This was the significance of the terrible incident with Ananias and Sapphira. This holiness of the Lord, established by the Holy Spirit, has to be carried into every phase and department of life: spirit, mind, body; relationships, transactions, methods, means. Anything doubtful, questionable, equivocal, and so on, is a contradiction and an antagonism to the Spirit of Holiness. It is unfortunate that it should be necessary even to mention such things in the realm of the work of the Lord, but that necessity is laid upon us.
Secondly, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a 'baptism into the love of Christ.' This is another element in the "fire." It need hardly be said that this love is something more and other than natural warm-heartedness, largeness of nature, generosity, sentiment and nice words. It is love which 'suffers long, envies not, knows no jealousy, makes no parade, gives itself no airs, is not puffed up, never rejoices in self-vindication when opponents are proved wrong, is always slow to expose, always eager to believe the best, never seeks its own ends or interests.' This love knows how to be abased, to be set aside, to be outshone; how to have its interests crossed; how to persist when forsaken; and much more. Only the Holy Spirit can impart and maintain this love.
Thirdly, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the 'baptism into the war of the ages.' Not into a religious playground or sports field, but into the grim, terrific, bloody conflict with "principalities and powers," with "the world rulers of this darkness," with "the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." Immediately upon our Lord's baptism, the Spirit came upon Him, and He was brought there and then, by the act of the Spirit, into awful contact with the leader of the opposing hierarchy. So it was with the Church. So it is with every one baptized into Christ. Thank God, the victory has been secured and the issue settled at Calvary, but the fight continues. It will take the mighty energizing of the Spirit of the Lord of hosts - "strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inward man" (Eph. 3:16) - in all the efficacy of the Precious Blood, to accomplish the deepest work of God in this age. There will be times when we are unable to work, or to preach, or to do anything but 'stand and withstand.' Many are contented while they can be active and do something. This can be a real snare. It is spiritual vitality that counts, not much busyness!
A Practical Instance
We will conclude with an incident from the story of Uganda which carries its own significance.
In the early days of the Church in Uganda, a boy who had been baptized came to Pilkington and told him of his failure to be true to Christ in the pathetic words, "I sin as much as ever I did." Pilkington was cut to the quick, and the desire for fresh spiritual power was deepened in his heart. Shortly afterwards he went apart on to one of the islands in the Victoria Nyanza that he might wait upon God and receive fresh power from Him. His prayers were answered, and later he could write to Bishop Tucker as follows:
"I want to tell you that we (mission and people) are in the midst of a time of great blessing. God has enabled several of us to see that for a long time past we have been working in our own strength, and that consequently there has been no power in our lives, and very little blessing. We have, however, been brought to see that the command, 'be filled with the Spirit,' is as much laid upon us as upon the Ephesians, and that power for effectual service is placed at our disposal if we will but appropriate it. I cannot tell you the difference it has made to us in our lives as well as in our work. Now we are full of joy, whereas a little while ago (I am speaking of myself in this) the depression was almost unbearable. As for our work, God is now using us, and a wonderful wave of blessing is passing over the land."
In any consideration of the effectiveness of the Church's witness in the world in its early days, it is essential that careful note be taken of the governing concepts in New Testament evangelism is undeniable. We therefore essay to bring some of those into clear relief. That to which we would give primary place -
The Power of the Name
In the book which gives us the record of those first decades of Christianity, we might almost say that - apart from the Holy Spirit Himself - the paramount place is given to the Name of Jesus. In almost His last words to His disciples before returning to Heaven, the Lord had said:
"Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer ... and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached IN HIS NAME unto all the nations..." (Luke 24:47).
On the Day of Pentecost Peter cried:
"Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you IN THE NAME of Jesus Christ..." (Acts 2:38).
In healing the lame man, Peter said:
"IN THE NAME of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk" (Acts 3:6).
To the crowd that ran to see the miracle, Peter said that it had been "by faith IN HIS NAME" (Acts 3:16).
To the High Priest, Peter declared that the man was healed "IN THE NAME of Jesus Christ ... Whom ye crucified, Whom God raised from the dead..." (Acts 4:10).
The Council commanded that they should "speak henceforth to no man IN HIS NAME" (Acts 4:17).
In the face of threats and commands the Church prayed that 'signs and wonders might be done THROUGH THE NAME of Jesus' (Acts 4:30).
(continued with # 6)